Syria defends Iran nuclear plans
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad came out in defense of Iran's nuclear enrichment program during a visit to Damascus on Thursday by Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and promised that cooperation between the two countries would continue.
Assad's remarks followed comments by Iranian former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani urging his country's political factions to stand together in the face of foreign pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program..
Assad asserted "the right of Iran and other countries that are signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich unranium for civilian purposes," the official SANA news agency said.
After his meeting with Assad, Jalili told a joint news conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem that Iran required uranium enriched to 20 percent, which he described as "a legitimate right," and added that the UN nuclear watchdog "should help all its members to acquire atomic energy."
For his part, Muallem said that Syria believed in a "political solution" to the standoff with the West over Iran's nuclear programme. "We hope that this will not come to a confrontation between Iran and the West."
Syria has been a close ally of Iran for the past three decades, having sided with Iran against Iraq in the Iran/Iraq 1980-88 war.